Transformative Educational Leadership Journal, ISSUE: May 2017 | TELjournal.ca
A catalyst for transformation, students from pre-school to Grade 12 at Lucerne School in rural New Denver work in partnership with local community organizations and volunteers to inquire and create change through their school/community Garden, Greenhouse and Sustainability initiatives.
Place-conscious learning is the signature pedagogy in rural and remote School District 10 Arrow Lakes . This pedagogical framework grounds an innovative initative to engaging community and deepening student learning at Lucerne Elementary Secondary School. The foundational concepts of this multi-year design are food security and sustainability. Every year, learning and relationships deepen as the school greenhouse, garden, recycling and composting programs grow and strengthen inquiry-based, intergenerational and cross-curricular learning.
Watch the film below or read on to see what this pedagogy can look like in practice.
Gardens and Greenhouse Rooted in Intergenerational Learning
Lucerne School is a small K-12 school of 92 students located in the southeastern corner of this geographically dispersed rural district. An early learning preschool centre (for ages 2 to 5) and a Strong Start Centre (for ages 0 to 4 and families) are located in the school building. SD 10 has a community partnership agreement with the North Slocan Valley Healthy Community Society which, over the past eight years, has shared in the costs of
- building a school-community greenhouse, school garden, and gazebo,
- sponsoring healthy breakfasts for seniors and children at the school, and
- co-designing projects to bring elders into the school community.
Early Learning – Growing Green Thumbs
In recent years, the partnership between Lucerne School educators and Healthy Community Society volunteers has resulted in deep connections between early learners and their families and our school-age children and their teachers. An after school Green Thumbs program connects children and families with community volunteers, early childhood educators and teachers. The focus is on learning gardening skills, growing relationships between youngers and olders, and harvesting fresh produce from the garden and greenhouse.
Harvesting, Cooking, and Eating Sustainably Led by Lucerne Secondary Students
Twice a week, high school students harvest produce from the school garden, the greenhouse and the indoor vertical gardens, design menus and prepare a healthy lunch for the entire school community. These students are immersed in learning more about horticulture, integrating learning about food security, sustainability, and nutrition. The salad bar has become a popular result of the Café Connections program. Greens and vegetables beautifully displayed have encouraged many more students to eat healthily – and parents love that their kids are eating well! In the fall, putting up the harvest through preserving and drying fruits and vegetables is a core part of the program.
Learning alongside the Elders
Elders in the community also work alongside the children, helping them understand gardening, food security, and community-mindedness. Some of this work is documented in a book of stories and photographs from older community members entitled The Talking Spade. The book shares the stories told to the Grade 4/5/6 class as the students visited local gardens and farms in the 2015/16 school year, learning food sustainability wisdom from those with years of experience and knowledge.
Recycling and Composting Inquiries in the Grade 4/5/6 Class
This school year, intermediate students at Lucerne were curious about the efforts they make each day managing all the school’s recycling and composting. Teacher Katrina Sumrall has led the students for many years in their inquiries about effective composting. Her students honed their skills in using Japanese bokashi compost methods through careful observations and monitoring. The students created and presented a PowerPoint to the Board of Education and other schools in the District in June 2016, showing trustees, students and teachers simple ways to make school and District operations more green.
Last Fall, Lucerne students were fascinated about what they could do to prevent their valuable compost from becoming an attractant for the mother black bear and two cubs frequently residing in the fruit trees surrounding the school grounds. As a result, the students picked neighbours’ fruit for them, turned many kilograms of it into juice, and invited local bear biologists and Bear Smart volunteers to help them learn about making their compost area bear proof. Then the students installed electric fences and monitored the impact of their bear protection. The children were clear that they cared as much for the bears’ protection as for their compost’s.
Where Does it All Go? An Exploration into Recycling Beyond School and Community Efforts
This Spring, the students wondered about what happens to the school recycling once gathered by the Regional District. These Grade 4/5/6s care deeply about making their school and community a better place and became curious: What happens to recycled materials once they pass it on in big bins to local government contractors? Does its journey promote or hurt sustainability? Their teacher applied for an ArtStarts grant and a local filmmaker worked with the students on their inquiry entitled: Where Does it All Go? A short film, narrated by filmmaker and former Lucerne graduate, is on the project blog and documents the students’ resulting research.
Sustainability and Coherence
In sum, Lucerne’s garden and greenhouse have been cornerstones for learning and inquiry for many years now. Each year, the focus deepens as students’, teachers’ and community members’ passions ignite new realms of discovery. Rooted in all this work is the firm conviction that through growing relationships and learning between old and young, children and elders are strongly rooted in the rich soil of community. The gardens and greenhouse, the salad bar and kitchen, the future root cellar: all of these are foundational, but relationships and a common belief in sustainability are key.
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